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Walking Your Cat on a Leash: Possible or Not?

white and black cat looking to the side wearing harness and leash

We have another question from a guest to The Contemporary Pet. This one is about the possibility of walking a cat on a leash.

“Can I teach my cat to walk on a leash? I don’t want to let her outside in our neighborhood, but I would love to take walks with her. When I tried to put a collar on her, she freaked out, and she doesn’t really listen very well, so I’m wondering how to leash train her and whether she’ll become used to the collar.”                                                                                      

– Nancy G., Naples, Florida

“Yes, cats can be taught to walk on a leash with some practice and patience. Rather than a collar, I recommend a harness made for cats. Start by placing it on the cat for a short period of time while giving treats, gradually increasing the amount of time he/she has it on. It is common for cats to ‘freeze’ when the harness is placed on them, so use a high-value reinforcement such as tuna or chicken.”

“The process of getting a cat used to the harness can take weeks, it just depends on the cat. Once your cat can comfortably walk around the house wearing the harness, then you can begin adding the leash. At first just attach the leash and lure (hold the treat out so he/she has to step towards it) the cat a step to get the food while dragging the leash. You won’t be holding the leash yet. Once you can lure the cat a good distance inside you can pick up the leash and hold it while he/she takes steps forward.”

“After the cat is comfortable walking around the house on the leash and harness you can take him/her outside on it. At this point, pick the cat up and carry him/her outside and set her down. Don’t expect the cat to walk yet, just let him/her get used to being outside since it is something new. Once the cat is acclimated to being outside you can begin luring a few steps at a time, gradually increasing the distance you walk.”

To read more articles by Kristen White, visit the Contributors page.

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